The Fortezza of Rethymnon Crete: The Venetian stronghold of Fortezza is built on top of a low hill above Rethymno Town, Crete. The hill is known as Paleokastro, which means old castle in Greek and suggests the existence of an older structure in that place. This huge fortress, with its turbulent history, was built between 1540 and 1570 by the Venetian maritime power as a bulwark against Turkish pirates.
More than 100,000 Cretans on compulsory labor and over 40,000 pack animals were used in the construction of this mighty fortress. However, the Fortezza was conquered by the Turks in 1646. After many upheavals during the next three centuries, only the outer fortifications of the Fortezza remain intact and few buildings are still under restoration. The Fortezza is visible from every part of the town and provides the visitor a panoramic view of Rethymno town. The visitors enter from the East Gate through an impressive archway.
Some of the many sights to see inside the Fortezza are the Ibraham Han Mosque, the Bastion of Santa Maria and the church of Agios Theodoros Trichinas. This orthodox chapel was built in 1899 by the Russian Governor of Rethymnon. The 20th-century Theatre of Erofili is also inside the Fortezza and holds many cultural events every summer. This theatre got its name from the play of a local play writer, Georgios Chortatsis.
Rethymno Preveli Monastery
The Holy Monastery of Preveli in Rethymnon Crete: The monastery of Preveli is spotted on the rocky hills of Preveli canyon, on the southern side of Rethymnon Prefecture, Crete. It consists of two monasteries, the Lower or Kato Preveli and the Upper or Pisso Monastery of Agios Ioannis Theologos, about 3 km far from Kato Preveli, which is dedicated to Saint John the Baptist. The monasteries date back to the middle 16th century. Through all these years, they were destroyed many times but they were always restored. It is said that the monastery owes its name to the noble Preveli family from Rethymnon town who contributed in its restoration in the 18th century.
Kato Preveli is a typical Orthodox monastery with the church of John the Baptist in the center. The buildings in the rectangular courtyard constitute the cells of the monks and some additional buildings. The monks spend most time of the year here rather than in Pisso Preveli, which is deserted today but still makes a beautiful site nestled among the mountains.
Many valuable relics and icons of the monastery were looted during the wars. The remaining collections can be seen at the Ecclesiastical Museum of Kato Preveli, where there are religious garments, relics, icons from the 17th century and a historical cross that depicts the Baptism of Jesus Christ and was used as a banner in wars.
Kato Preveli Monastery consists of a double-aisled basilica with a complex of buildings around it holding the dining hall, the food cellars, guest reception, and meeting halls. Near the large dining hall is the monk's hostel which has exits to the slopes of the mountains, which was very useful in times of war in the past. An old fountain with the inscription 1701 is still used as a water source. In the interior, the icons of Saint John and Saint Charalambos and the biblical frescoes are works of artists from the Cretan school of Art and date from the 16th century.
During the struggle of Cretans for liberation, the Monastery of Preveli served as a refuge for soldiers and rebellions. The monks of the monastery have always played an important role in the history of Crete, providing shelter to the Cretan soldiers, despite the fact that in this way they put their lives in danger. The monastery today is open to public and it commands a wonderful view over the mountainous nature of Crete.
Rethymno Venetian Loggia
The Venetian Loggia in Rethymno Crete: The Loggia of Rethymno is a 16th-century Venetian building situated right in the center of the Old Town of Rethymno. It is a wonderful square building with three visible walls, each provided with three equal semicircular arches. The middle arch provides an entrance at the ground level. The southern side of this elegant structure has no opening.
The Loggia of Rethymno used to be the meeting place of the noble people of the town to discuss economic and political issues. It also acted as a hosting place for many business and entertainment activities of the Venetians.
The Loggia was built according to the plans of the well-known Veronese engineer Michele Sanmicheli. There are two statues with human faces on the west wall. In the year 1625, an upper storey was added to the main building. It was converted into a mosque after the fall of Rethymnon to the Turks. A turret was built on the west side of the mosque, but it was pulled down in the 1930s.
The Loggia is a few yards away from the Venetian harbor, directly opposite to it. There is a narrow passage near the center of the Venetian harbor that leads to this elegant Venetian structure. At present, Loggia belongs to the Ministry of Culture and hosts the Archaeological Museum of Rethymno.
Rethymno Arkadi Monastery
The Holy Monastery of Arkadi in Rethymnon Crete: Arkadi is a place of special historical interest, known for the events that took place during the revolution of 1866. The monastery is built on the edge of the high plateau. This is one of the most important monuments of Crete and an interesting pole of attraction for visitors.
Located 23km southeast from Rethymno and 500m above the sea level, the initial fortressing part of the monastery was built in the 12th century, by an Arkadian monk as it is believed. Another myth says that the monastery was named after the Byzantine emperor Arcadius. The most important part of the Monastery of Arkadi is a church dedicated to Metamorphosis of Savior and Agios Konstantinos and Agia Eleni.
The monastery is quite large and its high walls relate to a fortress. This holy place has been well-known from the events of November 1866, when Crete had rebelled against the Turks, dominating the island for the past 200 years. When the Turkish soldiers violated the monastery after many hours of siege, the besiegers with a monk as leader put on fire a room filled with gunpowder. The explosion, which killed all the people inside the monastery and most of the Turkish soldiers, was a desperate act of the besiegers to remain free and not fall in the hands of their enemies.
This act symbolizes the Cretan liberation and makes the Monastery of Arkadi one of the most famous monasteries in Crete. There are few monks who still live there taking care of the church and the surrounding buildings. Inside the monastery, you will find a small souvenir shop with handmade items and great copies of Byzantine icons.
The monastery also houses an interesting museum with a great collection of post-Byzantine icons, pontifical from the 16th century, blazonry and relics from several revolutions. Outside the monastery, there is a memorial structure dedicated to the Cretans who died in 1866, displaying the remains of the dead.
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